Royal says China must meet rights obligations

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The Independent Online

China must meet its international human rights obligations, French presidential candidate Segolene Royal said yesterday on a trip to China where she hopes to bolster her foreign-policy credentials.

Royal, who will run in France's two-round presidential elections in April and May, said China had to stop jailing lawyers and journalists, especially as it had signed international human rights agreements.

"Precisely on the issue of the imprisoned lawyers and journalists, I think that this kind of professions that help protect human rights need to be protected and this is part of the international obligation of countries that sign international treaties," Royal told reporters on a walk through Beijing's historic Forbidden City.

"And China has signed this kind of treaty. I have great hope that China will make efforts in the future to effectively implement these international obligations," she said.

Royal's visit comes as China emerges as an issue in the presidential campaign. Royal, a Socialist, will likely face off against conservative Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy in the elections.

China has come to symbolize the threat globalization poses to French jobs and well-funded social benefits, as well as being criticized for human rights abuses.

Royal, who visited the Great Wall on Saturday, also said China had to do more to ensure the country's growing wealth was more evenly spread and close the yawning gap between rich and poor.

"How to conciliate rapid economic growth and social rights, or say the protection of men and women that work and those who are looking for work? This kind of issue is now faced by most countries in the world," she said.

Royal also held talks Sunday with Chinese State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan, and met Wang Jiarui, head of the international department of the Communist Party, who praised China's relations with France, saying they had developed considerably recently and helped improve Sino-European relations.

Royal is scheduled to meet Monday with Vice President Zeng Qinghong and Commerce Minister Bo Xilai, as well as visits with Chinese students and a stop-off at a French telecommunications research center.

Royal has risen to popularity through her grass roots activism, and polls show her slightly ahead of Sarkozy, but critics say she lacks experience and solid policies on foreign policy and defense.